Our first interview is with Brandon Schoessler from Sportland Tea Co. He runs a tea company and was the first person whom I asked for an interview for this new blog. He was kind enough to agree. So please enjoy the very first interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Brandon Schoessler, I am the founder of Sportland Tea Co.
What kind of business do you run?
We make performance-enhancing tea blends for active people. All of our blends are organic, mostly matcha tea-based (at the moment, but we have several new blends coming out this year), and have been designed to aid in physical energy production and post activity recovery.
What inspired you to start this business?
Well, to be honest, I was really out of shape. I had a desk job that required me to be sitting for extended periods of time, and I was growing wider and weaker every day. A few friends wanted to start running at lunchtime to get back in shape and I joined in. I was a big coffee drinker back then, and after a morning of a few cups going out running resulted in sour stomach and depleted energy reserves. It has been proven multiple times that caffeine is great for athletic endurance, but the delivery system wasn’t working for me. I was drinking green tea one day (good for losing weight), went running, and realized I didn’t have the same sour stomach. It just clicked. I made up a blend of mint and ginger to help settle my stomach, discovered that matcha (powdered green tea) had almost the same level of caffeine as coffee, mixed in a few other athletically-beneficial herbs, and I had a great tasting energy drink that gave me the boost I needed. And I felt fantastic!
Our goal is to help people. If we can provide a product that is healthy, good for you, tastes good, and helps you be more active, then we are doing something right. If you move more, you feel better…you’re happier and more productive. That can all start with a cup of tea.
What is your daily routine of running your business?
Early morning we fulfill the orders from the previous day. Then I spend about 30 minutes on social media and email, ship out the orders, and then head into the business part of the day. It’s mostly research, sales calls, and meetings. I try to not schedule more than 2 hours of meetings a day to make sure that I can focus on building the business through alternate channels. The Sales and Social teams can focus on their jobs while I do more conceptual work.
What are the best and worst parts of running your business?
The best is when a customer contacts you and lets you know that your product helped them achieve a goal. Or if one of our ambassadors used the product in an event and kicked ass. It makes us feel like we have a product that is helping people…which it does.
The worst part is spending late nights generating content…but that’s not really that bad, honestly. It’s kind of fun to stay up late and write, or illustrate, or design. I guess there really isn’t a ‘worst’ part. If there was, I’m not sure that I would continue to push forward.
Does your business generate enough money to support you?
It’s getting there. I still have a day job, but I think that I can get to full financial support by the end of the year with some effort.
Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?
I am a big fan of Reddit (r/entrepreneur). I’ve learned a lot of things by lurking in different business subs.
Which resources to run your business do you use most?
Shopify for online sales, Shippo for shipping labels, Quickbooks for bookkeeping, Google Drive for documents and team communication. We are investigating using Slack, for a more fluid communication tool.
What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?
It’s fun! We have a great team of people. And we get to make a product that people like and helps them. There’s no better job in the world than being able to help people.
How important do you think is talent when starting a business?
Very. You should build a team that supports your plan, and those members should have specialized skills that you don’t have. That said, I believe that talent can be cultivated and grown. Personality can go a long way, and if there is someone you really like you can help them become an expert in nearly anything.
How much time do you spend running your business per day/week?
About 12 hours. I’m looking to streamline my effort and automate several tasks to allow me to spend more time doing the social aspects of the business, as well as new product development. Those are the really fun things, so when I can spend more time on those I’m pretty happy.
Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?
It might be cliché, but I got a lot of inspiration from 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I’m not sure a lot his techniques are applicable today, but there are some great insights into process and automation. Skewing those to my advantage has been really valuable. I get more inspiration from books outside the ‘business’ category, honestly. I’m a sucker for philosophy books.
What would you say is the hardest part about running a business?
Mostly the fact that you can’t go from zero to infinity fast enough. You have to put in the work. And you make these granular advancements every day. Suddenly you look back and you have a foundation to build on.
What is your single best non-obvious tip for running a business?
Make a goal, and figure out the steps to make it happen. This may sound really simple, but you can’t get somewhere unless you know where you want to be. Say your goal is to sell 500,000 units. That’s the goal. Now figure out the steps to make that happen. It might seem like there is only one step…sell the units. Get microscopic about it and back out the process. You might have to expand sales in X region to get to 500,000 units, so what are the steps to expand? Who do you contact? Where are the demographics that are going to support the entry into the new region? You have to back out and analyze every single step to make that goal happen. Now you have an itemized checklist that you can just stroll right through to get those units sold.
What should you take into account when starting a business?
You can start a business with $100. It’s easy. But if you want it to be a real thing, you need to spend nights and weekends making it happen. It’s not going to build itself. There’s a quote I remind myself of regularly, and I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s “Whatever you focus on grows.”. If you pay attention to growing the business, it grows. If you focus on the negatives, they grow. So do the work to make it grow and watch it happen. The more you put in, the more you get back.
What was your experience setting up your company website?
Pretty straightforward. I used to do a fair amount of web development a long time ago, so I was able to get up and running pretty fast. And then moving to Shopify was even easier. I would just start there next time. It’s so easy.
Do you have a Unique Selling Point?
I think it’s our attitude toward tea. Most brands are talking about the flavor and the mythology around tea. The fact is, and I can argue this for days, is that tea is the healthiest drink on the planet. All the hydration of water, and you add all the polyphenols, antioxidants, and compounds that are in tea and you just leapfrogged ahead of water. We make teas that help the body perform, and does it in the most natural way possible. We’re all science and flavor, that’s what makes us different.
Please visit Brandon’s company at sportlandtea.com for more information.